Looking for up-to-the-minute news about Niles North High School? There’s an app for that—the NorthStarNews app, created by students in a Video Game Programming class.
Created by students An Nguyen, Michio Tsukamoto and Farhan Noormohammed, the app features breaking news, features, sports, editorials and all of the other great information available on the northstarnews.org website, in a portable, readable format. There’s even a puzzle game, “Fill the Vikings.” The app is available for free in the Apple App Store or Android Market.
“We started working on the project in November and finished in late February,” said Noormohammed. The three worked on creating the app as their service project for the year. “The hardest part was getting it to be as fast as it is,” Noohmohammed continued.
Nguyen said, “We decided that we were going to layer it like the website since they have their own categories. We basically have the app grab the stories in each category.”
The programmers used html and php for gathering the stories and making it look graphically appealing. They also used java script and html 5. Another obstacle in designing the app was “the limited amount of time we have in class, 42 minutes,” said Nguyen. “The computers are only so fast,” added Noormohammed.
Time limitations aside, the students enjoyed the experience in creating an app, despite the many challenges it presented. All three students have taken the Video Game Programming class with Ruth for the last three years.
“It was a good experience, in general, because it gave you a sense, if you wanted to be a programmer, how you’d work with different languages. Sometimes it takes longer than expected and it can be frustrating at times, but in the end it’s a big accomplishment,” said Nguyen.
His classmate echoed that sentiment. “I want to be a programmer. It’s been a good experience,” said Tsukamoto.
"I am very proud of these programmers,” said Ruth. “They have learned so much about coding while making a significant contribution to their school community."
Not only was this a good experience for students to work on the programming side of the project, but they also had to interface with their clients, North Star News.
“We also had to work with Mr. Silverberg and Mr. Pratt. We had to go through three or four revisions in order to get what we have right now. As a programmer you have to listen to your client and what they want to see.”
The feedback has been very positive. Ivan Silverberg, a North Star News advisor, said, “Ever since we went online, we have been thinking about making an app; the advent of this app is just an example of the continuing progress of North Star.”
“It literally puts North Star at your fingertips,” he said.